US envoy says China can help Afghans

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-10 07:52

China can offer Afghanistan and Pakistan "peaceful economic development", said US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman in Beijing yesterday.

The US has been struggling with its war on terror in Afghanistan. Just more than a week ago, US President Barack Obama has declared to send 30,000 more troops to the battlefield.

China responded to Huntsman's message yesterday, saying Beijing wishes to work with the international community to help those war-torn neighbors achieve peace, stability, development and progress.

Huntsman noted that Beijing and Washington can both bring such help.

Huntsman made the remarks after addressing in Beijing an annual conference of the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese-Americans aiming to encourage stronger relations between China and the US.

He stressed during the speech that many global challenges can only be resolved through cooperation between China and the US.

In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing and Washington have maintained "good communication" on the situation in South Asia.

Jiang Yu, the ministry's spokeswoman, said China, as a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has offered help "within its might" to help both countries achieve "peace, stability, development, and progress".

"We wish to work with the international community to further promote efforts to achieve above goals," she told China Daily.

Late last month in Beijing, Obama reached consensus on the South Asia situation with his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao.

The two leaders' joint statement said both countries "welcome any effort that helps achieve peace, stability, and development in South Asia", and they also agreed to "support anti-terror combat in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Commenting on Huntsman's latest message, Afghanistan's ambassador to China said he "welcomes cooperation between China and the US" to contribute to his country's reconstruction, especially in the economic sector.

"The government of Afghanistan believes that Afghanistan is a place of cooperation for civilizations," said Ambassador Sultan Baheen.

"China, as a good friend, neighbor and big regional power, could and should have a contribution in the Afghanistan's reconstruction," Baheen added.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistan government official said Islamabad and Beijing "have a strong and independent trajectory of relations".

"Pakistan is also working with the US in the war against terrorism and economic development," the official said.

Pang Zhongying, an expert on international affairs at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said Huntsman has adopted "a very pragmatic stance" by calling for Beijing's economic contribution rather than troops.

Since Obama unveiled his troop surge plan in Afghanistan, NATO countries and South Korea have said they would also send more troops to Kabul.

"The US knows it's not likely for China to send troops to the region, so it persuades China to play a role in the economy and reconstruction," Pang said, even though "China is already a stakeholder in Afghanistan".

China has been active in the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the US invaded the country following the 9/11 terror attacks.

The China Metallurgical Group Corp and China's top integrated copper producer, Jiangxi Copper Corporation, in July started work in Logar, a province southeast of the country's capital Kabul, to explore and develop the vast Aynak copper mines. The $4 billion investment was the biggest in Afghanistan's history.

(China Daily 12/10/2009 page11)